More “potential” graves of native children found in Canada 

January 27, 2022 - 12:40

An indigenous community in Canada has identified almost 100 "potential" graves at a residential school site, months after the discovery of hundreds of children's remains at former boarding schools shocked the country and the international community.

The Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) community says a preliminary geophysical investigation has identified 93 burial sites around the premises of a church-run boarding school

The geophysical survey revealed what the First Nation has described as characteristics "indicative of potential human burials" at the former St Joseph's Mission residential school in British Columbia.

Investigators "surveyed approximately 14 hectares of the site which is about 300 kilometers north of Kamloops, where the remains of 215 children were discovered in May.

Chief Willie Sellars of the Williams Lake First Nation says an excavation would be needed to confirm the presence of human remains and more work is required to make final determinations.

From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were taken away from their parents and forced to attend government-funded Christian-run schools as an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society.

Canada’s government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was a widespread practice in the schools, with the children beaten if they spoke their native languages. 

The latest possible findings near Williams Lake comes after investigators using ground-penetrating radar led to the discovery last year of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Since May, more than 1,000 anonymous graves have been found near former school institutions, shedding light on a very dark chapter in Canadian history and its policy of forced assimilation of First Nations people.

According to Sellars 14 of 470 hectares around the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School have been examined so far as part of the broader process to find out what happened to all the children who did not return home.

He says "there is much more work to do on the St. Joseph's site, and we have every intention of continuing with this work”. 

Sellars noted the accounts of survivors suggest “many? children who attended the school remain unaccounted for saying “their bodies were cast into the river, left at the bottom of lakes, tossed like garbage into the incinerators”. 

He added “It is for those children and families that we grieve the most.?

The survivors of the Williams Lake First Nation and nearly a dozen nearby First Nations will be receiving therapy and other means of support to help them deal with what has been found and the memories that haunt them to this day. 

The St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School was opened by the Roman Catholic Church in 1891 and ultimately closed in 1981.

First Nations representatives are calling on Pope Francis to come to Canada and issue a public apology. Last year, The Vatican announced the pope would visit Canada this year. However, a date has not been announced.

There were some 130 residential schools operating by Catholic missionary congregations.

The goal was to isolate young native children from the influence of their parents and their culture, which the government considered inferior to the colonialist Canadian society.

Sellars found it emotionally difficult to deliver the preliminary findings at a press conference. He recalled traumatic details by school survivors to investigators and spoke about already known “atrocities” committed against Indigenous children by staff there.

At one point he noted a chilling account: “so common, as one survivor relates, that if the school intercom requested a child to attend the office, you knew someone was about to be raped”. 

Sellars says the investigation team has heard stories of torture, rape, forcible confinement, and exposure to extreme conditions, among other abuses.

The preliminary investigation also used ground-penetrating radar and other equipment near the school site. 

The atrocious suffering of the indigenous people occurred at the school institutions as well as other similar facilities across the country.

Sellers says religious officials and the federal government misled the public about what was happening at residential schools.

“It is important that these investigations remain in the public eye,” Sellars said. “That we, as a nation, continue in an unwavering path forward in our pursuit of the truth with respect to St. Joseph’s Mission and other residential schools in Canada.”

A truth and reconciliation commission concluded in 2015 the failed government policy amounted to "cultural genocide."

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